Glasgow's research recognised as world-class in UK-wide assessment

Published: 17 December 2014

The University of Glasgow’s broad-based excellence agenda has been recognised by the Research Excellence Framework. The power of its research places the University 12th overall in the UK and 2nd in Scotland.

Our percentage of world-leading research has doubled to 31% since the last assessment in 2008.

Our broad-based excellence agenda has been recognised by the Research Excellence Framework. 

The power of our research places us 12th overall in the UK and 2nd in Scotland. This is consistent with our place as a world top-100 university.

The percentage of our research judged to be 'internationally excellent' or better has risen from 56% in 2008 to 81%. Research judged to be 'world-leading': the top category; has doubled to 31%.

This improvement has been achieved across all four colleges of the University and reflects a high performance across an exceptionally wide profile.

R‌esearch impact

For the first time, this UK-wide Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) has included not only assessment of academic output but also the impact the research has had on the economy, society, public policy, culture and the quality of life.

Find out more about these achievements:

Our achievements include:

  • pioneering research in medicine with new drugs and treatments
  • software revolutionising the design of electric motors
  • new ways of controlling animal diseases including TB in cattle and rabies
  • a positive impact on knife crime policy
  • assisting the transformation of Stirling Castle into one of the UK’s leading heritage sites.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton Muscatelli said: “It is particularly pleasing that, in line with the aspirations of the University set out in the University’s 2020 Global Vision, 31% of our output was judged to be of ‘world-leading’ quality. This success lies at the very heart of our contribution to the UK’s economy and, in particular, Scotland’s economy.”

Our direct contribution to Scotland’s GDP is estimated at 0.5% of the Scottish economy and over 3% of Glasgow’s GDP.

Research excellence by College

College of Arts

College of Arts has excelled in the delivery of impact, a world-class research environment and increased grant capture. As such, it was judged to have delivered 32.5% of research that was of 'world-leading' quality, rising to 42% for its impact.

Strategic investment, innovative training programmes and increased grant-capture has led to a major increase in the volume of world leading research in the College of Arts.

Areas demonstrating research excellence across all aspects include

  • English and Scottish Language and Literature
  • History
  • Communication, Cultural and Media Studies.

The Centre for Cultural Policy Research has been recognised as a world-class leader in analytical, theoretical and empirical research that directs and informs public debate on cultural, communications and media policy in Scotland, the UK, the EU and globally.

College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences

83% of research was assessed as 'internationally excellent' or better. 64% of its impact was considered to be outstanding.

Submissions in Clinical Medicine were ranked 6th in the UK and 2nd in Scotland, cementing our world-class reputation for studies into cancer, cardiovascular, and immune and inflammatory diseases. 40% of this was assessed as 'world-leading'.

Pioneering research has led to the development of new therapeutics and management strategies. This led to 77% of the impact submission being rated outstanding.

Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science was ranked third in the UK and featured strengths in infectious disease, comparative medicine and biology. Through engagement with government, industry and international agencies, the researchers have had a major impact on national and international policies, including the control of TB in cattle and rabies in East Africa. 82% of this submission was deemed outstanding in terms of impact.

The College’s Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience submission also excelled with 44% rated 'world-leading': an evaluation which underlined its grounding in excellence, particularly in systems neuroscience, cognitive neuroimaging and social interactions.

College of Science and Engineering

90% of research has been judged to be 'internationally excellent' or better. When it came to impact, 95% was assessed as having very considerable reach and significance.

Human geography was rated best in the UK for 'internationally excellent' or better research.

In Engineering our 'internationally excellent' and 'world leading' research places Glasgow in the top 5 in the UK.

The College addresses major technological and societal challenges, leading to impact, including:

  • new computer algorithms for the life-saving matching of kidney donors with recipients
  • design tools for the world’s semiconductor manufacturers
  • training methods to help police resolve missing persons cases
  • an over-the-counter medical test for bowel cancer
  • software revolutionizing the design of electric motors in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Looking forward, current research includes:

  • pioneering approaches to safe drinking water
  • antibacterial sterilization methods for surgical instruments and the packaging of perishable supermarket foods
  • the establishment of a £29m UK Centre of Excellence for Quantum Technologies for next generation imaging systems.

College of Social Sciences

The College of Social Sciences has had a very strong showing in policy-related research across many of its units of assessment.

  • Urban Studies came joint first in the UK, with half of their submission being judged as 'world-leading'.
  • Social Policy came 1st in Scotland, 5th in the Russell Group (the UK’s 24 top research-intensive universities) and 8th in the UK, with over 80% of their research being judged as 'internationally excellent' or better.
  • Area Studies also came 1st in Scotland.

The College achieved the highest possible 4-star rating in 60% of its impact activity in Social Policy, Urban Studies, History and Law.

Its world-class research generated outstanding policy impact in reducing reoffending, tackling knife crime, changing the law on rape, neighbourhood regeneration and improving health outcomes amongst hard-to-reach groups.

Find out more

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Notes to Editors

The Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) is the successor to the Research Assessment Exercise, a method of assessing the research of British higher education institutions. The REF covers research carried out from 2008-13, providing a detailed profile of research activity in universities and colleges in the UK. It is a recognised indicator of research quality, influencing student choice and the distribution of public funds for research.

The funding outcomes of the REF will not be known until early next year when they will be announced by the four funding councils operating in the UK. This year, for the first time, 20% of the overall grading will be made up of an assessment of the 'impact' the research has made; this is expected to encompass the impact upon the 'economy, society, public policy, culture and the quality of life'.

Submissions are assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Four star: quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Three star: quality that is internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour but which falls short of the highest standards of excellence.
  • Two star: quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • One star: quality that is recognised nationally in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • Unclassified quality: that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work. Or work which does not meet the published definition of research for the purposes of this assessment.

The REF is a process of independent expert review. HEIs were invited to make submissions in 36 units of assessment (UoA); under the RAE in 2008, there were 67 UoAs. Submissions were assessed by an expert sub-panel for each UoA, working under the guidance of four main panels. Sub-panels apply a set of generic assessment criteria and level definitions, to produce an overall quality profile for each submission.

First published: 17 December 2014